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Santiago Nieto started his restaurant Morfar in Croatia with two fellow Argentinians
Santiago Nieto started his restaurant Morfar in Croatia with two fellow Argentinians | Photo Courtesy of Split Photo Agency

Entrepreneur introduces Argentine empanadas in Croatia

The aroma of the kitchen impregnates every item I wear. At the end of the day, that distinct smell brings me closer to home and to meaningful memories.

Interview Subject
Santiago Nieto, the founder of Morfar, oversees the marketing and promotion of his business on a daily basis. Santiago, 28, was born in Comodoro Rivadavia, Chubut, a province of Argentine Patagonia, but he lived all his life in Quilmes, in the south of Greater Buenos Aires, on the shores of the Rio de la Plata. There began the origins of his family, who emigrated from the Balkan lands more than a hundred years ago. Paradoxically, Santiago returned to Europe and is successful with the business of traditional Argentine foods that he produces and distributes together with two partners.
Background Information
Empanadas are one of the traditional foods in Argentina. They can be made of bread, puff pastry, or shortcrust pastry and have hot fillings. The traditional ones are those stuffed with meat, although there are hundreds of styles and variants depending on the South American regions where they are cooked.
Morfar is the first Argentinian empanadería & restaurant in Croatia, a sensation in the Latin American community and among tourists. In addition to empanadas, they sell yerba mate, mates, and fernet with cola, which are Argentine social drinks and have strong roots in the interior of the country. Inside the premises, there are paintings of Argentine characters such as Tomás Felipe Carlovich, a neighborhood soccer player who never abandoned his origins nor accepted being a professional in the 1970s but is remembered and recognized by Argentines as one of the most talented in history.

SPLIT, Croatia — I grew up in Argentina, with Croatian roots on my mother’s side. This allowed me to access a scholarship program for Croatian descendants. After finishing my studies in Communication at the National University of La Plata, my brother and I sold everything, and we made the move.

In time, we developed a business selling Argentine empanadas – the first of its kind in Croatia. People recognize us by the aroma; guests always comment on the smells when they come in our restaurant.

When I get home at night, the aroma follows me on my clothes. It impregnates every item I wear! At the end of the day, that distinct smell brings me closer to home and to meaningful memories.

The work of building a business abroad

Our first few months in Croatia proved difficult. We faced a language barrier and struggled to understand the fine print in contracts. We faced bureaucracy, but Argentinians are used to finding solutions. In time, we learned the language, sought citizenship, and became more comfortable.

Building a business abroad comes with its own share of difficulty. Each culture has its own customs and dynamics. You have to understand them while developing your ideas. We continue to learn every day.

When it comes to empanadas, the team at Morfar focus on Argentinian aromas, flavors, and textures | Photo courtesy of Split Photo Agency

Today, we have three partners at Morfar. I manage the premises and my two colleagues cook. We do everything “from the lungs,” a phrase which means we put the body and the mind into our craft, while enticing the nose.

Attracting customers to Argentina food and culture

As people pass by the restaurant, they become attracted to the smell. The aroma of cumin – a very special seasoning in Argentine empanadas – remains incomparable. It has become our signature trait. You can also smell the aroma of wine circulating the environment. This, combined with the aromatic waft of freshly baked empanadas creates nostalgia and makes us feel closer to home.


The Balkans have a product similar to our empanadas called burek. Many cultures have a version of this kind of street food. At first, people looked at our product with a bit of hesitation, but when they dared to try it, they became addicted. We have grown a regular customer base of Croatians who shop with us several times a week. We take the time to explain to our customers what empanadas are, and how we consume them in Argentina. They always come back for more, encouraging us to continue with our venture.

My partners and I put almost everything we had into Morfar. The encouragement and enthusiasm we get back from the people mean so much to us.

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Mariano Junco serves as a communicator and content manager. he began experimenting in 2004 at the age of 17. Between 2007 and today, he developed a national and international career in sports while training in journalism, communications, and politics. He currently works in digital, audiovisual, and graphic media. He is passionate about the world of amateur sports and the institutions that comprise it.